Happening Today

High school MCAS exams

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets with education commissioner Mitchell Chester expected to present six policy recommendations dealing with the next-generation MCAS exams for high schoolers; Holyoke receiver Stephen Zrike gives an update on the district’s turnaround plan, 75 Pleasant St., Malden, 8:30 a.m.

‘Sergeant Santa Visit’

Gov. Chalie Baker participates in the “Sergeant Santa Visit” at Massachusetts General Hospital for children, Massachusetts General Hospital, Wang Lobby, 15 Parkman Street, Boston, 9:45 a.m.

Lottery Commission

Lottery Commission meets with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg as chair, One Ashburton Place, 12th floor, Boston, 10:30 a.m.

Ringing the bell

Gov. Baker is scheduled to ring the bell for the Salvation Army at its red kettle outside Macy’s, Downtown Crossing, Boston, 11:30 a.m.

‘Ask the AG’

Attorney General Healey participates in her monthly ‘Ask the AG’ radio segment on Boston Public Radio, 89.7 FM, 12:30 p.m.

Markey to discuss Trump appointees

U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey holds a press conference to discuss President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees to environmental, energy and foreign policy posts, 9th floor, 975 JFK Federal Building, 15 New Sudbury Street, Boston, 12:30 p.m.

Worker safety vigil

Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health holds a candlelight vigil for public sector worker safety and calls for better workplace protections, State House steps, 4 p.m.

‘Political Happy Hour’

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sits down with Boston Globe reporter Joshua Miller for a live ‘Political Happy Hour’ event to discuss political issues, 699 Boylston St., Boston, 5:30 p.m.

Listening tour

The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus holds a listening tour to hear from residents to shape its Communities of Color Agenda, Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley St., Roxbury, 6 p.m.

Today’s Stories

Probabation convictions overturned, DeLeo declares ‘complete exoneration’

This is a shocker: A federal appeals court has overturned the convictions of three Department of Probation employees accused of rigging the agency’s hiring system in favor of powerful pols’ patronage picks, saying the federal government “overstepped its bounds” by applying criminal laws to hiring practices within state government, reports the Globe’s Milton Valencia. The ruling is most definitely a direct rebuke, as Valencia notes, to federal prosecutors like US Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, once tagged by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the probation hiring scandal, is declaring unequivocal victory for himself and House members tied to the case. “The decision of the Court constitutes a complete exoneration for this institution and all of its members,” DeLeo said in a statement, as reported by SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall). “These false and scurrilous allegations can now be given an appropriate burial.”

So should we finally bury the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-patronage ruling?

As House Speaker Robert DeLeo pronounces the burial of the Probation Department convictions and scandal, is it time to finally bury the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1990 ruling that outlawed over-the-top patronage as a violation of workers’ constitutional First Amendment rights? For the life of us, we don’t understand why prosecutors and good-government types haven’t used the apparently little-known Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois ruling as a legal cudgel in blatant patronage cases. Maybe it’s because lawmakers, here and elsewhere, haven’t bothered to pass actual laws that would enforce the SCOTUS decision.

Wikipedia (Rutan ruling)

In wake of Berlin tragedy, Boston beefs up holiday security

From the Herald’s O’Ryan Johnson: “As crowds packed City Hall for ‘Boston Winter’ holiday market hours after a deadly attack at a Christmas market in Berlin, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said barriers would be in place and police would be there to keep the event safe. ‘Our police are always on high alert,’ he told reporters.”

Meanwhile, the Globe’s Scot Lehigh was in Germany last week and could sense the tension in the air even then: “It’s a question that lurked in the background as we made our way through the large Christmas market in Munich last week: Hundreds, maybe thousands, milling about, drinking hot wine or cold beer, shopping, eating, strolling, in the run-up to a joyous Christian holiday — what if terrorists choose it as a target?”

Except for a hiccup in Maine, electoral college delivers for Trump

You know it was a non-news event when one of the few surprises during yesterday’s nationwide electoral college proceedings entailed a lone Maine man briefly, once, casting a vote for Bernie Sanders, then quickly bowing to legal reality, as the Globe’s James Pindell reports. Sure, there were protests at the State House, as SHNS reports at WWLP, and elsewhere across the nation. But it was a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump would win electoral-college voting – verifying that Trump will be the next president of the United States of America.

T used privatization as bargaining chip – and it worked

In return for agreeing not to privatize bus and subway services as previously hinted/threatened by T officials, the MBTA won wage, overtime, scheduling and other concessions from the Carmen’s Union Local 489, CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl reports. But as Bruce makes clear: The T did not give up its right to privatize non-core services – and it still has room to privatize core bus and subway jobs if the T expands beyond a certain point in the future.  

Bottom line: Privatization of bus and subway jobs probably wasn’t going to happen anyway, so the T didn’t give up much for union concessions – and the Globe’s liberal-leaning editorial board and the conservative Pioneer Institute are both impressed. In particular, the Globe call privatization a “powerful piece of negotiating leverage.”


Uber: The T’s frenemy?

Even as the MBTA looks to forge partnerships with new-economy transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft, some on the T’s Fiscal Management and Control Oversight Board say those startups may represent a new wave of competition, Bruce Mohl reports at CommonWealth Magazine. “Uber is encroaching on what we’re doing,” said board member Brian Lang. “We need to figure out an aggressive response. We’re partnering with our potential enemies here.” 


Baker punts pot-tax issue to lawmakers

We think it’s safe to say the pot tax will indeed be raised. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy: “Gov. Charlie Baker couldn’t quite bring himself on Monday to say he would support a higher tax rate on retail marijuana sales, but he didn’t rule it out either. ‘I’m going to let the legislature kick this one around a little,’ Baker said during his monthly appearance on WGBH’s ‘Boston Public Radio’ show. ‘No, no, no, no,’ he added as clarification when host Jim Braude brought up a possible veto threat.” Meanwhile, the Globe’s Kevin Cullen is scratching his head trying to figure out all the contradictory do’s and don’ts of the state’s new marijuana law as stipulated in Question 4. “Whoever wrote the new law legalizing marijuana must have been high,” he writes.

SHNS (pay wall)

Rex Tillerson’s legion of Massachusetts admirers (snort)

The Globe’s Stephanie Ebbert has a rundown of all the pols and environmental groups that have had run-ins over the years with ExxonMobil and its CEO, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. The list is pretty long and it’s obvious: Rex Tillerson is no beloved Rex Trailer in these parts.

Boston Globe

Attorneys: Babson students exonerated

Babson College president and former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey has some explaining to do this morning. From the Herald’s Bob McGovern: “Two Babson College students who staged a rolling Donald Trump victory celebration at Wellesley College will not face any punishment, according to attorneys for the men. In a campus free-speech case that put a national spotlight on Babson, Edward Tomasso and Parker Rand-Ricciardi yesterday were found not responsible on counts of disorderly conduct and harassment for their political demonstration, their attorneys said.”

Boston Herald

So how much do you think you know about the world?

A MASSterList reader sent us this post at Nature on Hans Rosling, a physician and epidemiologist whose video lectures have made him an international digital star. We took the world-knowledge test at the end. Our score was dismal. But we’re pleasantly surprised by the results. You’ll understand if you take the test. It’s an eye-opener, at least for some.


Ex-Group Insurance Commission director pleads guilty to theft

A lone thief may have unfortunately given a black eye to other public employees who don’t and didn’t deserve it. From Shira Schoenberg at MassLive: “The former finance director of a commission that provides insurance for public employees pleaded guilty on Monday to charges that he stole $122,000 from the agency. Ennio Manto, 52, of Braintree, was spared jail time but sentenced to three years of probation. He was ordered to pay $122,000 in restitution.”


Baker calls homeless-policy allegations ‘ridiculous’

From Tori Bedford at WGBH: “Governor Charlie Baker strongly denied claims that his effort to reduce the number of homeless families housed in motels and hotels has offered no solution to the city’s vulnerable populations, forcing them into emergency rooms and other inappropriate living conditions. ‘The whole notion that somehow we would deliberately work to deny people, first of all, is ridiculous,’ Baker said.”


Senators say so long

Two of the three outgoing state senators took their bows at the State House Monday, reflecting on their tenures and looking ahead. Harwich Democrat Daniel Wolf—who opted out of seeking a fourth term to focus instead on his business, CapeAir, and his family—said he would remain politically active as a private citizen, according to report from Geoff Spillane of the Cape Cod Times. Meanwhile, Brian Downing completed his fifth and final term by touting progress made by the state on renewable energy, with Massachusetts taking a national leadership role on the topic, Adam Frenier of New England Public Radio reports. Downing is taking a role at solar company Nexamp. Sen. Brian Joyce, who is also leaving office, did not attend the session due a medical situation involving a family member, a spokesperson said.

The top performing Massachusetts stocks as the Dow soars to 20,000

There are still nearly two weeks of trading left in 2016, but the BBJ is already calling out this year’s top performing Massachusetts stocks, as the Dow Jones heads to the 20,000 mark. Hints on who’s doing well: The slideshow list is dominated by life-science firms and you’re likely to have never heard of the top ranking company.


Rattlesnake island decision months away

A newly formed working group studying a state plan to create a colony of timber rattlesnakes on a Quabbin Reservoir island is likely months away from making a recommendation on whether to move forward, Bradford Miner reports in the Telegram. The working group will survey the public and then pose questions to a Science Advisory Group before deciding whether to proceed.   MassLive’s Gintautus Dumcius has a who’s who on the makeup of the 14-member working group: 


Lowell hits limits on speed-limit reduction

Some Lowell officials are chafing under state restrictions on how much they can lower speed limits on some city roadways, Grant Welker of the Lowell Sun reports. City councilors were told they would have to petition the state for permission to lower speeds on many roads within the city limits. 

Lowell Sun

Library to celebrate the centennial of JFK’s birth

As hard as it is for some to believe, next year marks the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth – and the JFK Presidential Library announced yesterday a series of year-round events that will highlight the late president’s life and presidency. The Globe’s Laura Crimaldi had a good preview story on Monday of the library’s announcement.

JFK Library

DraftKings goes Kremlin, crops out ex-employees from holiday party photo

Olivia Vanni at BostInno reports how DraftKings, the online sports game firm, cropped out ex-employees from a holiday party photo the firm submitted to the site. DraftKings has a perfectly acceptable explanation for its Kremlin-like move, assuming you believe the explanation. But it’s still creepy.


Today’s Headlines


Boston College students face discipline over protests – Boston Globe

Mayor Walsh to boost City Hall market security – Boston Herald

Babson students exonerated, will face no discipline – Boston Herald


T labor deal yields big wage savings – CommonWealth Magazine

Convictions in probation scandal overturned – Boston Globe

T board raises competitive threat from Uber – CommonWealth Magazine

Springfield City Council approves $1.4 million settlement in wrongful imprisonment suit – MassLive

Here is who is on the rattlesnake island working group – MassLive

Snakes on a Quabbin island? Not so fast – Telegram & Gazette

Gun group blasts Attorney General on public records request – Telegram & Gazette

Medway selectmen ponder ice cream shop liquor license – MetroWest Daily News

Former insurance official from Braintree admits to stealing $120,000 from state – Patriot Ledger

Outgoing Cape senator imagines better future – Cape Cod Times

Downing bids goodbye to Senate – Berkshire Eagle

5 new primary care physicians to combat Berkshires’ doctor shortage – Berkshire Eagle

Concerns about cancer-causing asbestos rise amid Mass. renovation boom – WBUR

Governor’s midyear budget cuts would hurt Brockton literacy programs – Brockton Enterprise

State limits city’s power to lower speed limits – Lowell Sun


Electoral College sees record-breaking defections – Politico

Trump makes overtures to Mexico’s business elite – Washington Post

Trump’s State pick has a history with Mass politicians – Boston Globe

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